Republican U.S. Congressman Pete Olson may not officially be the poster boy for the oil and gas industry, but one could argue that he's really bucking for the job.
Last week, Olson of Sugar Land announced that he and a few other politicians on Capitol Hill plan to file legislation calling for an end to President Barack Obama's six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling, challenging the decision Obama made in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf.
And if that wasn't enough, today Olson announced that he has essentially asked the EPA to back off the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and let the state agency regulate air quality as it sees fit. Olson's announcement comes several weeks after the EPA blocked the TCEQ from issuing an operating permit to a refinery in Corpus Christi, and said it may do so in dozens of other cases as well. The EPA has said for months that the state's permits may be illegal and violate the Clean Air Act.
In both cases, Olson's arguments center around lost jobs and lost money for those in the energy industry.
In his latest crusade, Olson says on his website that if the EPA is allowed to take control of the state's permitting process, "It will kill thousands of Texas jobs and derail a program that has improved Texas Air Quality considerably."
Olson claims that the permitting system run by the TCEQ has led to a 22 percent reduction of ozone in Texas since 2000, though critics say the current system makes it nearly impossible to regulate and enforce emissions from individual sources.
"America needs Houston's refining industry to meet our energy demands," Olson writes on his website. "That fact is not going to go away anytime soon. And the Houston economy needs the jobs that go along with this national energy supply."
It turns out that Olson receives quite a bit of mullah from the energy industry.
According to OpenSecrets.org, a political watchdog group, Olson has received more in campaign finance donations from the oil and gas industry -- $216,300 -- than from any other industry since 2008, when he was elected.
Must be another one of those crazy coincidences.
Update: Attorney General Greg Abbott gets in on the act, suing over the EPA/TCEQ spat: "Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today filed a legal challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision to disapprove the state's qualified facilities program. The state's petition for reconsideration was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans," his office announced.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.